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Seminar

The Mood and Rhetoric of Critique

Open lecture with Assistant Professor Ruth Mas University of Colorado 29 August 13:15 - 14:45

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This lecture is concerned with the relationship between secularity and criticism in current debates about the nature of critique, and the critique of Islam, in order to identify the rhetorical mechanisms through which secular critique stabilizes, sustains and reproduces itself. The calls to examine the relationship between emotions and critique in a time of crisis have only increased since the turn of the century. Propelled by "new threats, new dangers, new tasks, and new targets," many are asking what has become of the critical feelings that are supposed to be held by progressives. The current lament is that critique has been infected with either "melancholy leftism" or "a new right wing frenzy." In order to begin to ask the question of what a critical spirit should feel like, this lecture focuses on how the very contexts and claims of criticism are authorized by the idea of crisis. The talk thus addresses the strategies and forms of the rhetoric of crisis that organize the relationship of crisis to critique. In doing so, I argue that the recognition of these new threats and new dangers as Islamic terror has escalated into a grammar of amplification, escalation, and hyperbole that sanctions the secular reform and critique of Islam.

Ruth Mas is Assistant Professor of Contemporary Islam at the University of Colorado and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (2006). Her research examines the intellectual and political dimensions of contemporary Islam. Mas is especially interested in the secularization of the Islamic discursive tradition and the implications for thinking about power, secularism, Muslim subjectivity and technologies of Islamic selfhood. These issues are addressed in a book project entitled, On Secular Islam; Time, Power and Tradition in Contemporary Islamic Thought. A second book in process, Critique and the Crisis of Islam, investigates the relationship between secularity and criticism in current debates about the nature of critique and its relevance to the study of contemporary Islam. In analyzing the rhetorical forms to which advocates for secular critique have turned in their denunciations of "Islamic terror," the book confronts recent attempts to rethink secularity and Islam.